The @MandyHarvey Story and Tips for Building Resilience
The Mandy Harvey Story
I can’t believe I am starting a post about a lesson I learned from America’s Got Talent. It’s even stranger to me that while watching the video clip that inspired this post, for a brief sliver of time, I actually and genuinely liked Simon Cowell.
The video linked above is 29-year-old Mandy Harvey’s 2017 audition to America’s Got Talent. My wife shared the video clip with me as we sat around the table, having coffee and trying to shake off the “Sunday sleepy” because our daughter had an 8 am fastball game.
The clip tells just a bit about Mandy, who as a young woman studying music in university lost her hearing due to a degenerative connective tissue disease. It also explains how over the last ten years she retaught herself how to engage with her talent and passion for singing again through sheer grit, creativity, and learning how to use technology to aid her journey.
Now I admit, I am a sucker for a feel good, underdog, against all odds story. My video collection is chock full of stories like Rudy, Seabiscuit, The Pursuit of Happyness, … the list goes on. Mandy’s story is one of those “gives you goosebumps” kinds of tales that makes you feel like you should get up off your chair, quit making excuses, and double down on chasing your dreams.
As I sat at my kitchen table listening to Mandy belt out her incredible original song, I was looking at my daughter hoping that as her parents we are doing everything we can to help her build the kind of resiliency that we were seeing via the magic of YouTube.
Resiliency is critical to Mandy’s story and to the stories of countless other successful dads, kids, families, businesses, etc. Resiliency as I understand it is the sum of those deeply held personal beliefs and characteristics which allow someone to bounce back when they are faced with adversity. It’s my belief that this way of approaching challenge and adversity is a world view that we can develop within ourselves and our kids. This can be accomplished if we intentionally help them understand the critical role that mindset and perspective play in whether we’re able to recover from a serious set back or allow our challenges to forever define us and our path forward in life.
There are many current sources on resiliency and the habits of mind that are required to embody this way of facing challenges such as Carol Dweck’s book Mindset and Angela Duckworth’s book Grit.
My obsession with looking for historical examples of timeless virtues in action makes me love the words of Theodore Roosevelt on the subject from an address he made to the Sorbonne in 1910:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strived valiantly; who errs, who comes again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
Makes me want to step into my arenas, chin held high, knowing that I am likely going to take some Rocky Balboa like beatings as I do so. I know that my and my kids’ successes, in whatever arena we choose to act will require courage, discipline, positivity, and a mindset that appreciates the struggle and recognizes the role resiliency plays in creating the momentum to move one step forward every day.
How to Develop a Resilient Mindset in Your Kids
The advice in the following points has been adapted from the American Psychological Association. The APA believes that “[we] all can develop resilience, and we can help our children develop it as well. It involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that can be learned over time”.
Here are some actionable tips you can begin working on right away:
1. Make connections
Teach your child how to make friends, including the skill of empathy, or feeling another’s pain. Don’t assume that this is a natural or easy skill for your kids. It often isn’t and we can help as parents. Encourage your child to be a friend in order to get friends.
Build a strong family network to support your child through his or her inevitable disappointments and hurts. Connecting with people provides social support and strengthens resilience.
Ask your kid about their school experience and watch for signs of isolation. School can be the loneliest of places for kids who don’t know how or are having trouble making meaningful peer connections.
2. Help your child by having him or her help others
Children experiencing challenge in their lives can be empowered by helping others. Engage your child in age-appropriate volunteer work, or ask for assistance yourself with some task that he or she can master. Use the chance to do something together as an opportunity to learn together, practice your epic patience as a dad and also show your child that they are capable of doing really cool things if they are willing to learn and make mistakes along the way.
This can be a real challenge for busy epic dads but we must resist the temptation to jump in and rescue or do the task for our kids. Let them really help you, embrace the process and the mistakes and mess which come with learning.
3. Maintain a daily routine but be flexible
Sticking to a routine can be comforting to children, especially younger children who crave structure in their lives. Encourage your child to develop his or her own routines. This also helps them develop the traits of responsibility and discipline which are so important to personal success and fulfillment in life.
While it is important to stick to routines, teach your kids to bounce back from times when their routines and schedules might need to be adjusted because of what’s happening in their worlds. Monitor the messages you send to them about how you deal with disrupted routines. They will take their cues about bouncing back, falling off the wagon, or completely losing it because of change from you.
4. Look after yourself to teach your child self-care
Make yourself a good example, and teach your child the importance of making time to eat properly, exercise and rest. Make sure your child has time to have fun, and make sure that you build in times where your kids aren’t scheduled to be at the arena, diamond, dance studio, dojo, etc.
Learning to look after themselves and wind down with some unstructured play and fun will help your kids learn to deal with times they may feel anxious and stressed.
5. Move toward your goals
Teach your child to set reasonable goals and then to move toward them one step at a time. Moving toward that goal, step by tiny step, and receiving praise for doing so will focus your child on what he or she has accomplished rather than on what hasn’t been accomplished, and can help build the resilience to move forward in the face of challenges.
Praise your kids’ effort and grit in moving towards their goal. Encourage their “growth mindset” by focusing on the steps they are taking towards their goal and also what they can learn from the mistakes they are making on their journey.
Talk to your kids about how you are moving towards the goals you have set for yourself as an epic dad. Be vulnerable and open with them about your struggles and mistakes and what you are learning as you work to move forward one step at a time. Your example is powerful.
6. Keep things in perspective and maintain a hopeful outlook
Even when your child is facing very painful events, help her look at the situation in a broader context and keep a long-term perspective. Although your child may be too young to consider a long-term look on her own, help her see that there is a future beyond the current situation and that the future can be good. An optimistic and positive outlook enables your child to see the good things in life and keep going even in the hardest times.
Nurture a positive self image in your kids by reminding them, with examples, that they have overcome obstacles in the past and are capable of overcoming what’s in front of them now.
Your kids will look to you in times where you might be experiencing profound challenge as well. Show them that you can see hope in the future, even though today might be very difficult, painful, and challenging.
7. Accept that change is part of living
Change often can be scary for children, teens, and epic dads. Help your child see that change is part of life and new goals can replace goals that have been achieved or in some cases become unattainable. The future and world our kids will be forging for themselves will be full of change. Helping them become comfortable with working through a change process might be one of the most powerful gifts we give our kids as epic dads.
Be Intentional in Your Approach
It takes an intentional approach to working with our kids, and on ourselves, to develop the never say quit kind of attitude that will help us change the world for the better. It can be hard but it’s meaningful work and I’d love to hear your thoughts about this post and how you are working on your epic dad resiliency for yourself and your kids.
Sharing with other epic dads is one of the most powerful ways we can amplify each others’ #epic impact. Thanks for what you do every day to build a better world through your kids.